RIO HONDO — A simple Facebook post by the Rio Hondo Police Department provides a reminder of the rules and guidelines of golf cart usage.
Police departments in Rio Hondo, Palm Valley, Port Isabel and South Padre Island are all concerned about golf carts on city streets and they stress the importance of safety rules residents must follow.
“We just want to take a moment to remind everyone, that the City of Rio Hondo has an ordinance regulating the use of golf carts and ATV type vehicles within the city limits,” Rio Hondo Police Chief William Bilokury stated on the department’s Facebook page.
In his statement he said those types of vehicles must be registered with the city and meet certain safety criteria.
“Additionally, Colorado Blvd. (FM 106) is a state highway and they cannot be driven on those roadways, except to cross from one side to the other. Finally, they most definitely cannot be driven on any sidewalks. Sidewalks are for pedestrian use only,” he said.
Bilokury said no accidents have happened regarding golf carts but the purpose of the post is to remind residents to be careful and avoid fatalities.
“It is always best to mitigate these issues before it becomes a problem. We have city roadways, county roadways, state and federal. So Texas says not to operate them on the roadway,” he said.
“Just recently I observed one of our Winter Texan couples at our retirement communities riding one on the sidewalk. I was going to stop them but lost sight of them. But sidewalks are specifically designed for pedestrian traffic,” Bilokury said.
He also stressed how golf carts do not come with the safety features motor vehicles have.
“Can you imagine you are driving along in your four-by-four pickup truck and here comes this plastic operated golf cart driving in front of you? The consequences are going to be dire,” he said.
“They don’t have air bags, seat belts, side impact protection. They are not designed for that type of operation,” Bilokury said.
The Rio Hondo city ordinance allows golf carts to be driven on city streets but not on the state highway, which is Highway 106/Colorado.
Bilokury said he has seen golf carts riding on the state highway, usually being new Winter Texans who might be unaware of the rules.
“They have to pay for a registration sticker and meet certain safety criteria. It is all about safety and visibility,” he said.
“When it comes to sidewalks even bicycles are not allowed there. What if we have a person who is handicapped wanting to use it?” Bilokury said.
According to him, those violating these rules have lack of knowledge on the rules of golf carts but also take advantage of being a part of a small town.
“For the most part they are aware of it but they choose to ignore it because they feel it’s a small town. A lot of the mentality here is, ‘It’s a small town, we don’t have to follow all these laws,’” he said.
The maximum speed limit golf carts are allowed to be operated is 35 miles per hour, according to the Rio Hondo City Ordinance. This rule is also included in the Texas golf cart laws.
Patti McMillen, manager at Twin Palms, a retirement RV park in Rio Hondo, said she has not witnessed people breaking the rules but agrees they should not be ignored.
“We have the city ordinances posted on our community board. We encourage residents to abide by the laws. We can’t enforce them when they are outside of the park but we do make the information available to our residents,” McMillen said.
She also said they hold weekly meetings in their community and try to discuss these rules, hoping they are respected.
Port Isabel Golf Cart Situation
Lt. Jose Luis Cadengo from the Port Isabel Police Department said they also deal with traffic issues involving golf carts periodically.
“We do not have a city ordinance but we follow state law. They are not allowed on our streets but in South Padre, which is adjacent to us, they are,” Cadengo said.
According to Cadengo, the issue is not major. He said there have been a handful of times when people have tried to travel from South Padre Island to Port Isabel.
“Most of the people contact us before hand and we inform them of the rules and policies,” he said.
“Traveling on the causeway is very dangerous. These carts are not designed for the high winds that sometimes happen,” Cadengo said.
Cadengo also mentioned if someone happened to cross in a golf cart they are not allowed to cross back and would have to get a tow truck to take them back to the Island.
“Because they are allowed in South Padre they tend to believe they can use them over here also,” he said. “But they are misinformed, they are not allowed in Port Isabel,” he said.
South Padre golf cart guidelines
In South Padre the story is different. Golf carts are allowed to be driven within Padre Boulevard and are a part of the community. But according to Public Information Officer Nikki Soto, they cannot go past the 45 mph post.
They have had incidents involving a golf cart and a car.
“Golf carts are not allowed on the sidewalk but they are permitted on streets. You have to show insurance and all golf carts follow the same rules as any other motor vehicle,” she said.
Even though incidents have happened, the issue in South Padre has not necessarily been a traffic one. Soto said the only city ordinance that has been created was because of a noise concern, regulating the radios being played on golf carts.
Soto agreed there have been people attempting to cross to Port Isabel and she said it is probably because of lack of knowledge.
“At times they might have not realized if this is their first time here. Once you are in those lanes and miss the crossover you are committed to going on the bridge,” she said.
Palm Valley golf cart rules
Chief Alvaro Garcia from Palm Valley said golf carts are allowed on the streets as long as they follow the 35 mph rule and they are two miles from a golf course.
“We do not allow them to operate them at night time with no lights. If we see them we will stop them but there have not been any major problems,” he said.
However, Garcia said he has seen people driving them on sidewalks, which is not allowed.
“We warn them and usually that is enough. Frequent violators would get a citation but we have warned a couple people about that,” Garcia said.
According to him, those riding on sidewalks think it is safer to operate them there than on the street.
“Residents just need to be respectful of the state laws and comply with all posted signs and the operation of them at night. They must have the safety equipment, especially lights,” he said.
Garcia said there have been times when younger individuals have been caught riding on the cart with too many people.
“We have caught kids or teenagers where they’ll be standing on the back of the golf cart and we don’t allow that either; no horseplay,” he said.